Double Concerto

for Harpsichord, Piano, and Orchestra
on a randomly-generated tone row


also for A.J.

(1) Allegro liscio (2) Adagio (3) Presto

Date Duration Listen
3 July 2011 15'04" Realization (.MP3) Score (.PDF)
20.7 MB 584 KB

On Concerti (in general, and this one in particular):

This is what I've noticed about concerti over the years, particularly since the advent of Romanticism with its irresistible drive toward ever-larger forms. In many cases, the first (so-called Sonata-Allegro) movements of concerti are vibrant, intriguing, very well crafted, and frequently ravishingly beautiful; but the subsequent movements leave something to be desired, as though the composer had exhausted himself completely on the Allegro and had no creative resources left to complete the composition, other than by rote brute force. And I'm not talking about mere second- or third-rate artists here, either: Brahms' First Piano Concerto is a sterling example, where the unparalleled lyrical and dramatic brilliance of the extended first movement suddenly peters out into seemingly tedious insignificance in both the Adagio and the Rondo. But the Sibelius Violin Concerto is perhaps the absolute model for the phenomenon: the opening Allegro moderato's perfect balance of virtuosity, lyricism and pathos clearly marks it as one of the greatest movements for soloist and orchestra ever written; yet the most memorable thing anyone ever said about the equally virtuosic concluding Allegro ma non tanto was Donald Tovey's remark that it was "a polonaise for polar bears." I mean - really!

Having just completed my own second, humble attempt at the form, I can report that there does seem to be something about the compositional process that lends itself to such a result. I was so enervated by the struggle to compose the opening Allegro of my violin concerto (op.10), that the concluding movements are, in fact, nothing more than obviously dwarf variations on the "C" and "D" sections of that first movement. The ten or eleven days I spent writing the opening movement of this double concerto (op.15) were a thoroughly engaging and fascinating time, spent literally on the edge of my seat with anticipation of discovering where the permutations of the tone row would ultimately take me. But the very minute that movement was essentially finished, all the wind went out of my proverbial sails and the task of writing the subsequent Adagio and Presto became simply an onerous duty: just another slightly irritating job that needed to be done in order to get on with my life. Whether this sudden change in attitude translated into inferior and uninspired writing in the two concluding movements of the piece, is not for me to judge. I approached the work no less seriously during those movements; but completing it became increasingly difficult, as time progressed.

Ah, c'est la vie.

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